There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet..

From Cowley Tunnel No 33 (North end) to Tom's Moorings, a distance of 14 miles, 2¼ flg and 5 locks.

After the rain and wind that had made Sunday one of those days that make you wonder why you go boating Monday had to be better, and in some ways it was, but in many ways it wasn’t. Yes it wasn’t raining (which can only be described as a good thing) but the wind that had made the rain so nasty had doubled in intensity and, somehow, seemed to be several degrees colder.

Now the Shroppie is a beautiful canal and it has some amazing views out over Wales – but those views come at a price : there is no hiding place. Luckily the major embankments at Shebdon Embankment and Shelmore have quite a lot of trees so they are pretty sheltered but even on those there were times at which Mintball was crabbing as she moved along.

At times it reminded me of the time we were taking Mintball down the Leeds and Liverpool towards Maghull in what turned out later to be the tail end of a hurricane and we had to use ropes to pull the boat off the bank to get through the swing bridges

The Title comes from “His Last Bow” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

“There’s an east wind coming, Watson.”

“I think not, Holmes. It is very warm.”

“Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared”

And it shall rain for ever and ever….

From Penkridge - Visitor Moorings above Lock to Cowley Tunnel No 33 (North end), a distance of 22 miles, 7½ flg and 8 locks.

Well what can be said about Sunday 27th of May 2007 that doesn’t involve lots of descriptions of rain

We got up early and turned at Penkridge Winding Hole and started to head back towards Gailey Wharf and at the same time it started raining. From then on I guess it was a challenge – who would give up first: me or the rain. Kathy worked us up through the locks and stated, quite correctly, that you’ve really got to love boating to do this sort of thing. We got to Gailey and moored up for about 30 minutes – to have some breakfast but, more importantly, to warm up. The air temperature was low enough that mist was rising off the canal – a situation that continued until well into the afternoon.

For some strange reason not many other people were on the move, and those that were agreed that we were all quite mad.

The original plan for the day was to have lunch on the move and then have a hot cooked meal in the evening but by about 11am we’d decided that this plan was just not going to work, mainly because the rain had now been joined by a rather nasty wind which just leeched body heat out of you. So we stopped at about 2pm on the new moorings on the Shroppie (between Lower Hattons Bridge No 6 and Hunting Bridge No 7 ) which are about 3 miles up from Autherley Junction

After a hot lunch of slow braised pork with potatoes and carrots it was time to wrap up warm again and, fuelled by a never ending stream of freshly brewed coffee from the galley, we pushed on.

Wheaton Aston Lock No 2 was actually totally deserted, with no signs of any life : a stark contrast to when we’d come through on the Easter Weekend when we’d had to queue for nearly 90 minutes to get through.

We eventually gave up when we reached Gnosall and moored in the cutting just past Cowley Tunnel No 33 (North end)

We were the only boat on that block of moorings so it was very quiet – and very, very dark. Seriously dark, to the point that I couldn’t see to get out of bed to go to the loo – a task made even harder in that I had to be careful not to step on Kathy, or Smokey, or step off the edge of the bed 😉

As for who gave up first: us or the rain. Well the title of this post comes from when I woke up in the middle of the night. The radio was on and Classic FM were playing part of Handel’s Messiah. Just as the choir sang “And he shall reign for ever and ever” a lot more rain landed on the roof of the boat….

North by North East

From Hunting Bridge No 7 to Penkridge - Visitor Moorings above Lock, a distance of 13 miles, 2¼ flg and 7 locks.

Saturday was one of those days that makes boating worth the hassle of keeping a boat. The sun was shining, but there was still a cold edge to the air which meant that when the sun went behind a cloud it got a bit chilly.

In the 20 or so minutes before we cast off there was a flurry of traffic and we were worried that the day was going to be spent stuck in a convoy. But it quietened down and we cast off into a pretty quiet canal.

As we headed south we caught up with a couple of boats and by the time we reached Autherley Junction we were in a small queue. The boat in front of us went into the lock, the helmsman got off and went into the boatyard shop and the member of crew on the lockside didn’t do anything until the helmsman came back and then was really slow in winding the paddle up. Kathy got off to check to see if anyone was going to come through the lock and the crewmember on the boat in the lock just on, leaving my wife to drop the paddle and close the gate. Luckily they turned West towards Aldersley Junction rather than East towards Coven Heath .

The canal was, once again, strangely quiet – we met one boat just before Marsh Lane Bridge No 67 (South End of Narrows) and another who pulled in at First Passing Point but apart from them there seemed to be no-one else on the mood.

Just after Slade Heath Railway Bridge we met two sets of canoe catamarans full of kids enjoying themselves. The supervisors saw us coming and made sure the boats were pulled up by the bank safely out of the way. As we went past the kids all stood up, saluted us and said “Aye Aye Captain “ 😉 It was good to see kids enjoying themselves and even better to see that they were being properly supervised (a situation which is sadly often lacking). We guess they were out from the adventure centre near Laches Bridge No 73, and looking at the photos on the CanalPlan entry it looks like its part of their standard routine 😉

After that excitement it was back to quietness and solitude – even Hatherton Junction was quiet with little sign of life on many of the boats; all we can assume is that as the weather forecast for the weekend was not too good that people just hadn’t bothered, but considering it was the start of the half term holidays we would have thought more people would have been on the move.

Even Gailey Wharf was quiet – no boats on the visitor moorings, no boats on the water points, no boats in the lock, Viking Afloat were taking up all the winding hole. Not what you expect on the late May Bank Holiday weekend. Whilst we watered Kathy popped into the shop in the round house and bought a couple of items, including some extremely tasty slices of cake.

We worked our way through the first two locks and stopped in the pound above Boggs Lock No 34 for a light lunch. Whilst were were moored up one boat went past – it was an old working boat (tastefully restored) and was being singlehanded through the flight by a man with one of the thickest Birmingham area accents I’ve ever heard.

When we cast off after lunch we found ourselves in between the singlehander and another boat who really seemed to be in a hurry.

Originally we had thought about pushing past Penkridge, even as far as Tixall Wide (Northeast end) but listening to the weather forecast on the radio we decided that it probably wasn’t worth it. So we stopped for the night at Penkridge – Visitor Moorings above Lock

Due South

From Tom's Moorings to Hunting Bridge No 7, a distance of 23 miles, 7¼ flg and 6 locks.

We had arrived at the mooring on Thursday evening – it took 90 minutes from Cheltenham and we used the motorway (M5 and M54) all the way to the A41, but as it was after 9:30pm by the time we’d finished loading up we decided it wasn’t worth moving for the night so we stayed put.

Friday morning started a bit damp : that sort of misty drizzly rain which soaks everything in seconds, which didn’t bode well for the weekend although we could see that the sun was trying to break through the clouds.

The visitor moorings were all very quiet – not many boats on them and of the ones that were there seemed to be no signs of life, and we chugged quietly on by.

We met a couple of boats on the Tyrley lock flight but apart from that it was quiet.

Woodseaves Cutting was much greener than it had been at Easter and by now the sun was occasionally breaking through the clouds but still there seemed to be no boats moving. When we had come through the cutting at Easter we had met a couple of brave souls who were walking along the towpath. Nobody was doing that this day and by the state of the towpath no-one had done it for a bit.

When we passed The Wharf at Goldstone Bridge No 55 “Missus Mouse” was moored in the odd mooring that I mentioned previously and the field just before the Pub (which had been full of caravans at Easter) was pretty much deserted.

The cafe at Norbury Junction offers a wide range of food and drink and also Wi-Fi access which is good news for any passing boater who needs to check on their emails or update their blogs. In fact with a boatyard offering full boat services (fuel, gas, pumpouts, engine repairs etc.) and a pub that serves Banks’s it’s hard to find anything negative to say about the place… although the large number of moored boats can be a bit of a pain.

The moorings just by Gnosall Railway Bridge seemed a sensible place to stop for lunch and they were pretty full and most of the boats seemed to be on the move rather than just dumped there.

Cowley cutting was pretty overgrow – if the rock had not been so faulted Cowely tunnel would have been quite impressive.

The run up to Wheaton Aston Lock No 2 was easy – hardly any boats on the move and apart from one boat at the lock (who was very slow) there wasn’t a queue.

The slow boat going through the lock was single handed and was also steering rather erratically as we followed it down towards Brewood .

As we had been on the move since just after 7:30am we decided to call it a day when we got to the 48 hour moorings near Hunting Bridge No 7